Berkshire Symphony

Berkshire Symphony Soloist Gala

Winners of the annual Student Soloist Competition are featured along with Sibelius, Symphony No. 2, op. 43 in D Major and a premiere by Brian Simalchik ’10.











David Kealhofer ’13, cello
Tchaikovsky Variations on a Rococo Theme, op. 33

David Kealhofer has played the cello since he was five years old. From the San Francisco Bay Area, he has studied with Irene Sharp and Jennifer Culp. He has performed the D minor, C Major, C minor, and D Major suites in the annual Junior Bach Festival, and has performed in two family concerts in the Carmel Bach Festival. In 2005, he joined a quartet that participated in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s preparatory division and, in 2006, the Yehudi Menuhin Chamber Music Seminar. He was a member of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2005 until 2009, with whom he toured Germany and the Czech Republic in 2008. Earlier that season he had been a finalist in the Youth Orchestra’s Concerto Competition, the most prestigious competition in the Bay Area. He was principal cellist for the 2008-2009 season. He has been a California runner-up and national semi-finalist in the American String Teacher’s Association competition, three-time finalist in the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s Concerto Competition, second-place winner in the Pacific Musical Society Competition, and Honorable Mention in the OEBS Concerto Competition and National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts’ youngARTS competition. David enjoys reading, physics, riding his bicycle, Beethoven, and glide.

Hannah Smith-Drelich ’10, clarinet
Mozart Clarinet Concerto, K. 622 III. Rondo

Hannah Smith-Drelich grew up making maple syrup and shearing sheep in the rural Appalachians of Cumberland, Maryland. She is a senior English major here at Williams, completing an honor’s thesis on food in the literature of the American Modernists in France. She spent her junior year abroad in Paris, where she studied clarinet at Schola Cantorum and learned the art of eating. She is a student of Susan Martula, and during her four year stint at college has participated in Berkshire Symphony, Student Symphony, SymphWinds, Chamber Music, Clarinet Choir, and the pit orchestra of Cap and Bells. She has studied at Interlochen Center for the Arts, and played in Maryland All-State Orchestra, All-State Band, Hershey’s All-USA Band, and acted as principal for L’Academie de Musique in Paris, West Virginia University Honor Band (three years), and All-County Honor Band (four years).Her senior year of high school, she played a Klezmer Concerto by Robert Starer with the Allegany Orchestra. When she is not attempting the opening glissando of Rhapsody in Blue, Hannah enjoys writing, acting, cooking, and skiing.

Laone Thekiso ’12, piano
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 1, op. 1 in F-Sharp Minor I. Vivace

Laone Thekiso started learning to play the piano in school at the age of seven while his family was living in Sweden. After the family returned to Botswana in 1999, Laone underwent a two-year period without a piano teacher. In high school, he began taking lessons with Olga Merker, a pianist from the former Yugoslavia. With her Laone began playing classical music. Over the six years under he tutelage, he performed three piano concerti with the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra from South Africa. At Williams, Laone studies with Artist-in-Residence, Doris Stevenson. He plans to major in music and to pursue a career in performance. He is also interested in composition and ethnomusicology, and aims to gain more knowledge and proficiency in these fields.

Brian Simalchik ’10, composer
Working Title: Anthony Cycles

Brian Simalchik is a senior at Williams College, majoring in music with a focus on composition. He was recently in residency at Mass MOCA with Roomful of Teeth, an eight-member vocal ensemble focusing on extended vocal techniques, and wrote two pieces especially for them that were premiered at a concluding concert. The Williams Symphonic Winds recently premiered two of his pieces: when I lived in permanence for three amplified cellos and wind ensemble, and untitled, which was presented during a concert of collaborations with the Williams Dance Company. His score for the documentary Child of Hope: Darfur Dreams of Peace won best soundtrack at the 2008 Kent Film Festival, and he has had premieres by the Williams Percussion Ensemble of The Light is Electric, and the Williams Student Symphony of an arrangement of selections from Eric Satie’s Sports et Divertissements. In January 2010 his piece Modular Homes was premiered during the I/O New Music Festival, and he is currently working on a piece to be premiered in May 2010 by Symphonic Winds. A full recital of Brian’s works is scheduled for Friday, May 14 at 4:15 p.m.

One of the most exciting concerts to take place every year in Chapin Auditorium is the final performance of the Berkshire Symphony. The concert showcases the fruitful relationship that makes this orchestra such a special ensemble. More than a regional orchestra and unlike any college orchestra, this group is a hybrid which nurtures the best in professional and student musicians alike. In this concert the spotlight is turned to outstanding student soloists who have gone through a grueling vetting process culminating in a spot front center. The energy this generates is incredible. The standard of performance is comparable to that in institutions whose sole focus is performance.

This final program of the season features the winners of the Berkshire Symphony Student Soloist Competition: David Kealhofer ’13, cello; Hannah Smith-Drelich ’10, clarinet; and Laone Thekiso ’12, piano as well as the premiere of Senior Thesis composition by Brian Simalchik. This event is a great showcase for the extraordinary talent at Williams College and is always a highlight of the season.

The delightful Variations on a Rococo Theme, opus 33 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is a favorite, performed by student contest winner David Kealhofer ’13. Though the great master denied cellists a full-blown concerto, this theme with seven variations does well as a stand in.

First premiered in Prague in 1791, the Clarinet Concerto, K. 622 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remains as well loved today as it was well received at its first performance. One of the last works completed by Mozart, this clarinet concerto is a piece that many young clarinetist take a shot at, though only a select few master its intricacies. The cheerful and virtuosic third movement Rondo is performed by Hannah Smith-Drelich ’10.

Among the musical geniuses of 19th century Russia, Sergei Rachmaninoff, is a composer who always seems vital and contemporary. First composed when the great composer was just 19, the Piano Concerto No. 1, opus 1 in F-Sharp Minor is a well loved staple of the many concerti for piano. Laone Thekiso ’12 performs the first movement, the Vivace, which stands very well on its own, displaying the romantic heart of the composer and the extraordinary technique of Mr. Thekiso.

Williams students, mentored by a faculty of scholar/composers, do not limit themselves to performing the classics and the modern works of others. A number of students also compose. No stranger to the concert stage, Brian Simalchik ’10, presents his latest composition: Wey-Gat Cycles. This piece reflects on cycles of rhythm and melody layered on top of one another, interacting in organic and unpredictable ways. As with landscape, there are innumerable processes occurring simultaneously around us: the slow movement of the continents below us, the sun moving across the sky, the wind blowing and stopping, the daily patterns of animals and people, the photosynthetic cycle occurring in tree leaves, etc. To represent these various cycles of time, ranging from the largest cosmic cycles to the smallest cellular and molecular ones is fascinating. Harmonically and texturally, the piece is inspired by a specific location on the Hudson River in upstate New York. The Wey-Gat, Dutch for “Wind Gate”, was a name early settlers gave to a section of the Hudson River between Storm King Mountain and Breakneck Mountain. Sailing north on the river, this is the place one would first encounter the Hudson Highlands, a series of tall mountains flanking the water from Stony Point in the south to Newburgh in the north. This is a place that is inspiring to the young composer. “Looking down on the river, the roads and across to the mountains stretching off into the distance, I feel a particular resonance between all these variously proportioned patterns.”

The orchestra hardly limits itself to an accompanying body for the entire concert. Symphony No. 2 in D Major, op. 43, by Jean Sibelius is one of his most popular works, a piece which evokes the grand landscape of his native Finland. The piece is seen by some as a patriotic work, written around the turn of the last century, but its universal appeal has made it an absolute standard of the symphonic repertoire.

The Berkshire Symphony is conducted by Ronald Feldman and includes nearly 70 members, half of whom are students and half of whom are professional musicians. The ensemble presents four major concerts each season. In addition to performing the great standards of orchestral repertoire a recurring theme each year is the performance of contemporary works. Championing the works of living American composers has been an integral part of the mission of the Berkshire Symphony.